It’s been an exciting couple of days in the Seattle area. There is a buzz in the city that I haven’t personally experienced in a couple years, since Ken Griffey Jr. made his return to the Mariners. The whole city seems to be talking about Chris Hansen. Hansen is a hedge-fund manager who grew up in Seattle, and cited a “civic obligation” to help bring the Sonics back to Seattle.
But the new Sonics shouldn’t be the old Kings. At least not in a world that is anywhere near perfect.
Two months ago there were probably less people in Seattle who knew who Chris Hansen was than millions of dollars he has in his stock portfolio. One month ago, there was probably essentially no awareness in Seattle of the pending legislation in Sacramento that could eventually lead to a new arena, a team sale, or the team’s eventual departure from the city.
And now a lot of people in Seattle are prepared to do to Sacramento what the NBA did to Seattle: Steal their team.
There are plenty of teams in the NBA that are in bad media markets. There are plenty of teams in the NBA that aren’t drawing enough fans to sustain themselves. There are plenty of teams in the NBA that would be candidates to move if the right situation presented itself to the league. The Kings don’t have to be the one for Seattle.
I remember what it felt like when the Sonics left in 2008. I remember what the winters have been like for the past three years, living on the fumes of two Washington basketball games a week until the beginning of baseball season. I have felt the emptiness. I have felt the heartache. But I’ve had other options. I’ve had a baseball season to look forward to. I’ve had a football season to look forward to. Sacramento doesn’t.
Really, as members of a mid-market city, Seattle residents should empathize with the Kings. Poor ownership, combined with a global economic recession that has hit Sacramento hard, and a team that picked the absolute wrong time to have a downswing have led to the same perfect storm of events that may lead to the Kings leaving. Sacramento has even had the backing of the NBA, as well as a mayor who actually played in the NBA, instead of some dickhead (fuck you so much Greg Nickels) who didn’t care about the team.
The worst part is that fans of both teams—to a large extent—are simply a victim of circumstance. The Kings fanbase has been destroyed by recession-shrunken government-staff that makes up a large part of the work force in the city, and the Sonics fanbase was a victim of a city and state government that refused to support them as a civic institution, and an ownership group that treated team like an extremely-high-dollar coffee shop, and a subsequent ownership group that never had any plans to keep the team in Seattle.
New Orleans has failed to support two teams in the past 35 years. Charlotte has failed to support two teams in the past decade. Neither of those cities deserve the team they have.
Sacramento has one team. They’ve supported that one team for a long time. And as much as I’d love to see Isaiah Thomas back in Seattle, and dammit I want to care about Jeremy Lin, and how much of an idiot JR Smith, or a Dwight Howard trade, and so many other things I miss about being an NBA fan, it just wouldn’t be right. I mean, none of it is “right,” but taking the Kings feels way more not right than taking a variety of other teams. I’d hate to see the city of Sacramento stripped of their only show in town–as far as professional sports go–when there are other options available.
That said, if the Kings are up for relocation, I’d much rather see them in Seattle than Anaheim. The Kings may ultimately be the only option for Seattle, and it sure seems like a decision will be made on the Kings before Seattle has the option to explore a ton of other alternatives. But my first option would, and always will be to leave the Kings in Sacramento, and to have another, less-supported team come to Seattle.